David J sheds light on his black-clad past

The former Bauhaus and Love and Rockets bassist tells all

When David Haskins tells the story about the time he crossed paths with David Bowie more than three decades ago, it’s as though he’s reliving a dream. It was 1983. Haskins, known mostly as Bauhaus and Love and Rockets singer and bass player David J, was on set for director Tony Scott’s vampire thriller The Hunger, starring Susan Sarandon, Catherine Deneuve, and Bowie. Bauhaus was there to perform the group’s slow, gothic anthem “Bela Lugosi’s Dead.”

Between takes, the group retired to its dressing room which contained a ’50s-style jukebox. One day, Haskins was alone perusing songs on the jukebox when he noticed a thin white presence looming over his shoulder. It was Bowie. “Do you mind if I play one?” he asked.

“Please, by all means,” Haskins replied.

Bowie punched the buttons, calling up an obscure early ’70s instrumental number titled “Groovin’ with Mr. Bloe.” The song’s R&B/soul beat, breezy piano, and harmonica lines filled the air, and Bowie started dancing. “It was just him looking at me and me looking at him — I was sort of nodding to the music,” Haskins says. “I got up the nerve to be a bit cheeky.”

Bowie asked: “What do you think?”

“This reminds me of something,” Haskins said.

“Yeah, what’s that?” Bowie asked.

“It’s one of yours.”

“Which one?”

“It’s off of Low.”

“Well come on then, which one is it?”

“It’s ‘A New Career in a New Town’ ...”

With that, Bowie placed a finger to his lips, gave Haskins a wink, and continued dancing till the music ended.

Moments like this are sprinkled throughout Haskins’ 2014 memoir, Who Killed Mister Moonlight? Bauhaus, Black Magick, and Benediction (Jawbone Press, $19.95). The book casts a personal light on Haskins’ black-clad years with the British post-punk outfit Bauhaus, and the time he’s spent honing his songwriting as a solo artist.

On Feb. 23, Haskins reads from Who Killed Mister Moonlight at A Cappella Books in Inman Park. On Feb. 24, he plays an intimate Living Room show at Electron Gardens in Avondale Estates.

Opening the show on Feb. 24 is Atlanta-based alternative rock band the Hot Place. The group performs as a trio — featuring Mike Lynn (acoustic guitar), Jeff Calder (12-string acoustic guitar), and Lisa King (singing/percussion) — playing a stripped-down, acoustic set of songs from the group’s 2014 album The Language of Birds.

King is the woman responsible for bringing Haskins to Atlanta for this two-night stand. It started with just the Living Room show. Through Haskins’ website, fans can book a small room performance, allowing for intimate interactions in the tradition of troubadours such as Bob Dylan’s early years, Pete Seeger, and Woody Guthrie. “It’s great to meet the audience on a one-to-one basis, and to hear their stories about when they first heard my music,” Haskins says. “It’s genuine, it means a lot, and it encourages me to bring more to them as a performer,” he adds. “It also cuts out the middleman, which is a good thing in my book — no promoters. I’m dealing directly with fans, and it’s a mutually gratifying experience.”

For these shows, Haskins draws from all points of his career, playing songs by Bauhaus, Love and Rockets, and from his many solo albums, along with the occasional cover. The show at Electron Gardens is sold out.

For King, organizing a book signing for Haskins was essential. “We were having a quick chat, and we both agreed that the show would be a cool thing to do,” she says. “I could see the whole thing becoming a really positive experience for our community of artists and musicians. David has a real presence in his speaking voice, and I didn’t want him to visit Atlanta without hearing him read from his book.”

The title for Haskins’ memoir comes from Bauhaus’ song “Who Killed Mister Moonlight” on the group’s 1983 album Burning From the Inside. It’s the only Bauhaus song on which he sang lead. As such, the song possesses a certain personal appeal. “For Bauhaus’ singer Peter Murphy and myself, the character of Mister Moonlight took on a new meaning and became representative of the band itself, in particular the beautiful, romantic side,” Haskins says. “It sounds like the title of a murder mystery/whodunit? In a way, that is what the book is.”

And, in true troubadour tradition, Haskins reiterates that his appearance for the book signing and the Living Show is all about telling stories. “Writing the book was partly cathartic,” he says, “but more than anything, I simply love sharing stories and this is one that I lived and is a very good tale indeed!”